Friday, May 5, 2017

So I Finally Made It To Banff

Heading to Banff was something that had been on my radar for well over a year.  I had concrete plans to visit last May but then we had the wildfire here and any plans I had went right out the window.  This only left me more determined to get there.  Just like last year, I made all my travel arrangements well in advance.....and they finally came to fruition this time.  

Due the sheer amount of ground I covered and the amount of photos I took, I've decided to do a separate post for each of the three days i was there to really give the place its due.

I had no idea what to expect once I got there.  Banff really needs no introduction and I had visions of a pleasant 3-day sojourn being overrun by hoards of tourists.  This actually wasn't the case and for the most part, other than a few hikers and bird watchers, I felt I had the place to myself.   The weather was a bit sketchy on my first day.  When I arrived the night before it was actually snowing rather heavily a certain points, but I came dressed for the weather and anyway, I wasn't going to let a little snow get in the way.  I really had to wait until the following day to get any decent photos of the mountain scenery due to the overcast conditions but at any rate, my main goal was to see some birds.

I was up and out the door by 8am and headed over to the Fenland Trail not far from the historical train station.   It was quite and pleasant and good place to take in that mountain air.  If I'm not mistaken, this photo is of Echo Creek along the trail.


It was a bit darker than I would have liked and spotting anything in the pines was a challenge but persistence paid off.  It's a little hard to see but there really is a downy woodpecker in there.


Mountain Chickadee.  It was nice to be able to add this to my life list and I did see quite a few of them during the course of my stay.


Not far from the Fenland Trail are the Vermilion Lakes.  It really is a birding hotspot and very accessible so I was very determined to get there and spent a large chunk of the day here.  The weather still wasn't cooperating and it was a challenge to make out some of the species at the far side of the lake due to the distance but the 4 hours i spent out there really proved what a goldmine for birds the place is.  For the most part I saw lots of mallards, buffleheads, Canada Geese and a few ring-necked ducks though there were a few nice surprises that morning.


Elk taking a morning drink.  I was to see plenty of them during my stay as you can probably imagine.


The ground squirrels were quite vocal.


Other than the ground squirrels and this morning train rumbling through, it was eerily quiet at times.


It doesn't get much more Canadian than this...a crisp spring morning in a national park and a loon swimming by.  Surprisingly, this was my first sighting of this iconic bird.


...and of course there were plenty of Canada Geese to be seen.


Female Mallard.


By early afternoon, the sky finally began to clear up a little.  The colour of the vegetation really made for a nice contrast with the grey of the mountains and the (sort of) clear skies.



Red-necked grebe.


Majestic Mount Rundle.  It's easy to see why it's been the subject of many a photo or painting throughout the park's history and I was able to get some pretty nice photos of it during my stay.


Overall, a very good outing at Vermilion Lakes.  I noted 17 species altogether which is the most I think I've recorded at a single location.  At this point i decided to head back in to town to rest my legs and catch a late lunch but I was to return to this spot a couple of days later.

Not far from my hotel I came across this guy.  It wasn't the first time I was to see one up close.  He (or perhaps she) was no doubt used to seeing humans and didn't seem to really care much about my presence though of course I was careful to keep distance so it wouldn't feel cornered up against some trees just off-camera.


After a bite to eat, I head back out.  There is a very walkable set of trails on both banks of the Bow River so I did a little exploring there.  Again, it was pretty dark with the big pine and spruce trees so I didn't bother taking many photos though I did spot a couple more loons swimming in the Bow.


This is further downstream just above Bow Falls.  I was on the wrong side of the river to be able to get to the viewing area for the falls themselves but (spoiler alert) I managed to see them the following day.


And of course, no trip to Banff would be complete without seeing or mentioning the historic hotel .  I ventured over to the hotel grounds later in the trip.  Some of the views really are second to none and I can see why someone would want to stay here.  I've stayed at a couple other hotels in this chain but this one was a tad too pricey for me considering how little time I even stayed in the hotel I was actually staying at.


So all in all, an amazing first day.  If was definitely worth waiting and extra 11 months to finally get there.  The following day I was off to check out birding opportunities at a couple of national historic sites.

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